Estevez - Jara

Without even kicking a ball, Franco Jara may have completely changed FC Dallas' 2023 season.

The veteran forward helped Dallas open a valuable Designated Player slot this week after terminating his contract six months ahead of time by mutual agreement. The 34-year-old has since returned to his native Argentina to join top-flight Belgrano, a move that gives Dallas "different options" to possibly make a high-profile signing before the new campaign gets underway.

With playmaker Alan Velasco and striker Jesús Ferreira both signed as Young DPs, and winger Paul Arriola completing their attacking trio, logic would indicate a big-name defender may be on his way in – especially after longtime captain Matt Hedges departed for Toronto FC in free agency.

However, during the club's first preseason media availability on Friday, technical director Andre Zanotta was quick to point out that all scenarios are on the table.

"With Franco leaving, it opens opportunities for us," Zanotta said when asked about the surprising roster vacancy. "We're looking at different options. Not necessarily center back."

According to Zanotta, the offseason signings of center back Sebastien Ibeagha, who won the MLS Cup-Supporters' Shield double with LAFC in 2022, and Brazilian right back Geovane Jesus, from Cruzeiro, will help fill the void left by Hedges, whose contract option was declined after a decade in North Texas.

Other key members of the backline include left back Marco Farfán and center backs José Martínez and Nkosi Tafari.

"He did a lot for this club and he will be missed for sure," second-year head coach Nico Estévez said about Hedges, who is Dallas' all-time appearance leader (349). "... But we have to move forward and we have to think about how we can get better."

As far as Zanotta is concerned, getting better involves signing a player who can help Dallas reach elite status in MLS.

"We are prepared. We know the different scenarios that we can do to improve our roster," the Brazilian executive said. "We're working on that right now and we want to find the best fit for the team, the best opportunity that we can find so that we can make our team even stronger."

"Complacency is the enemy"

Regardless of who ends up being the club's next DP, Estévez wants to see his current squad improve on a 2022 season that saw Dallas return to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and reach the Western Conference Semifinals.

That specific match, a 2-1 loss to interstate rivals Austin FC, still irks the Spanish coach, who believes the outcome could've been far different had his team adopted the right mentality from the opening whistle at Q2 Stadium.

"You can see that we didn't have the right mindset in the first half," Estevez said. "And when we just clicked and had the right mindset, I think the second half we were close to tying the game and had a chance to beat them."

However, Estévez is ready for a fresh start and has little interest in highlighting successes from his first year in charge.

"Complacency is the first enemy for us this season, because we can be happy about what we did [last season]. We're not happy, we wanted more," Estevez said.

"This is what we want to tell the players: This club wants more."